; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Foundations of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) - Part II

Foundations of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) - Part II

By Dr. Raymond A. Keller, author of the international awards-winning Venus Rising Trilogy, available on amazon.com while supplies last.

Dr. Donald H. Menzel (1901-1976), Harvard astronomer
“Revenge of the Nerd”

Turning Tide

Beginning in the summer of 1952, Coral Lorenzen, Director of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, remained perplexed over a series of statements made by Dr. Donald H. Menzel, the famed astronomer and astrophysicist serving as the then Acting Director of the Harvard University Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the effect that there was nothing of note to be gained from any study of the so-called “flying saucers” appearing in our skies. In the midst of a huge flying saucer flap gripping the nation, Menzel came out with an article in the 17 June 1952 issue of Look magazine dismissing the majority of extant UFO reports as the result of unusual atmospheric conditions that could produce “saucer-like light inversions.”

Menzel thought that all UFO reports could easily be explained in the context of misinterpretations of atmospheric or astronomical phenomena, the misidentification of conventional aircraft, or just outright hallucinations or maybe even hoaxes. There were no substantial reasons for astronomers to believe that life existed on other planets, let alone that alien life forms were visiting the Earth in flying saucers.

In the Look magazine article, Menzel asked, “Why have so many civilized individuals taken such an uncivilized attitude toward flying saucers?”

To this, Lorenzen opined that, “He (Menzel) was assuming that the system of mechanized barbarism which constitutes the world’s way of life is civilized.” She added that, “He also assumes by that question that the obvious explanation, that the flying saucers are interplanetary and controlled or manned by a superior intelligence, is an uncivilized attitude.”

The APRO director clarified her remarks, noting that, “Pages of newsprint could be used to disprove Menzel’s theory; but being that it is not worth the time or effort, let the following suffice: Menzel’s light inversions do not account for flying lights (Gorman case); New Mexico’s green fireballs, double-decked ships trailing flames (Chiles-Whitted case); and hundreds of saucers with a red leader (Farmington, New Mexico, case); and that’s just naming a few.”

Lorenzen wondered what was really going on in academic circles. In the 1 July 1952 issue of Look, members of the Air Force were interviewed who clearly left the idea that some flying saucer reports, like the ones noted above, could very well be representative of a type of extraterrestrial technology. These interviewed Air Force personnel created the impression that the government planned on slowly educating the public to the idea that the flying saucers were manned or remote-controlled vehicles from outer space, but not coming out with a direct disclosure until such a time as the planet of origin of these objects could be determined, as well as the intentions of the extraterrestrials in conducting their surveillance of our planet. What the APRO director did not know, at the time, was that Menzel opted not to become the director of the Harvard Observatory because he was already fully committed to working with the United States Navy on a TOP SECRET project in improving radio wave propagation by tracking the Sun’s emissions and studying the effect of the aurora on radio propagation for the Department of Defense. He continued with this project until 1955, when he resumed the directorship of the Observatory until 1966. Whereas the airmen were basically stating their personal opinions, Menzel was working on a lucrative government contract and needed to be quite circumspect in anything he said about flying saucers or any other subject reflecting national security concerns.

Venus Rising: A Concise History of the Second Planet

Final Countdown: Rockets to Venus

Cosmic Ray's Excellent Venus Adventure

Amazing Spider-Man

Moving on to the 9 September 1952 issue of Look magazine, correspondent Chester Morrison does a follow-up piece on the flying saucer phenomenon, interviewing the eminent Dr. Donald H. Menzel. In this article, Morrison upholds Menzel’s debunking theory, that being that the UFOs aren’t really “unidentified,” but easily identified in the context of being “any one of several explainable natural phenomena and definitely not of extraterrestrial origin.” In a rather creepy but quixotic turn of events, Menzel illustrates his theory with an experiment using cobwebs that reflect sunlight to create eerie saucer lighting patterns on the wall of his Harvard basement laboratory. He even allowed Morrison to take a photograph of his pet spider who collaborates with the professor in conducting his web ventures. Do you suppose Peter Parker was anywhere on campus at the time, covering the story for the Daily Bugle?

Our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’s antics did not go unnoticed overseas, however, for Dr. Frank B. Crane of Frankfurt, Germany, took Menzel to task in a rebutting article that appeared in an unspecified issue of the Sioux City, Iowa, Journal, published sometime in mid-to-late September 1952 and referenced by Lorenzen in the September 1952 issue of the APRO Bulletin. According to Lorenzen, “Crane believes Menzel finds it too easy believing things which he can prove no more easily or thoroughly than the ordinary, uneducated man. Crane cited the Link (sic) sighting in Germany, and admitted that although he had been almost indifferent to saucers previous to that, he began to sit up and take notice after hearing about it.”

The following pages are an exact copy of an “unevaluated” document from the archives of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Notice that this document comes from that section of the CIA that works with “military and scientific information from foreign documents or radio broadcasts,” as indicated on the first page banner letterhead and subject line. This is important to keep in mind, because Coral Lorenzen was probably as closest as she was going to get, at that time, to the heart of the vast UFO conspiracy. Of course, Lorenzen was perturbed by Dr. Donald H. Menzel’s gnawing skepticism, undermining the credibility of the extraterrestrial hypothesis for the flying saucers wherever he spoke or whenever he wrote an article. But little did she realize Menzel’s key role in the then relatively new but TOP SECRET machinations of the flying saucer cover-up taking place behind the backs of millions of Americans.

Please open I. Kithirmerini, CIA Report 00-w-23682, dated 23 August 1952, based on report from Athens, Greece, newspaper about the flying saucer encounter of an East German defector when he lived behind the Iron Curtain: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000015464.pdf.

Menzel’s Real Agenda

With the passing of time, we have come to realize that the astronomer Menzel played a key role in the United States government’s great flying saucer conspiracy since its very inception. Menzel, a hardcore, “nuts-and-bolts” expert in the physical sciences of astronomy and astrophysics, was called upon in 1951 by the director of the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB), a special committee under the auspices of the Executive Branch, to serve as an initial consulting member and advocate for skepticism concerning the existence of genuine UFOs. The PSB was formed on April 4, 1951, during the Truman administration, and was composed of the Under Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Director of Central Intelligence, or their designated representatives. The board's first director was Gordon Gray, later National Security Advisor during the Eisenhower administration. While it had only been four years since the civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold reported nine disc-like objects zooming over Mt. Rainier in Washington State like “saucers were skipping across water,” and thus inaugurating the age of the “flying saucers,” the phenomenon had already attained a worldwide scope and interest.

The PSB was originally created to carry out psychological warfare against the Soviet Union and its communist satellite countries. The PSB defined psychological warfare as “any nonmilitary action which influenced public opinion or the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States.” This included, but was not limited to, the creation of propaganda designed to foster trade and economic aid; cultural and educational exchange; threats to use force, where deemed appropriate by the Executive Branch of the United States; generating peaceful diplomacy; and of course, shaping minds to downplay the subject of UFOs as mere “science fiction,” having nothing to do with anything in the real universe. The inclusion of UFOs under the prevue of the PSB was probably due to the national security aspects evident in the phenomenon. Any significant advancement in Soviet aerospace technology might be quickly obtained through the analysis of some UFO reports. In addition, there were some indications in the mass of contactee reports that visiting extraterrestrials might have their point of origin on a planet organized along communist lines, some sort of collectivized society hundreds or maybe thousands of years in advance of our own.

Cultural memes against the existence of flying saucers were generated through the creation of various “buzzwords,” such as branding the witnesses of UFOs as “crazy” or the contactees with the flying saucer occupants as “delusional” or “hoaxers.” After President Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn into office in January 1953, the PSB was integrated into the Operations Coordinating Board (OCB) of the Central Intelligence Agency, where the group organized and dispatched psychological warfare operatives at home and abroad. Throughout his life, Menzel remained a government consultant and spokesperson on all matters UFO and exobiology-related in sundry capacities within the PSB-OCB organizational hierarchy.

Menzel was noted as the world’s foremost skeptic in those early days of ufology. He went on to write three books about UFOs: Flying Saucers (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1953); World of Flying Saucers: Scientific Examination of a Major Myth of the Space Age (New York, New York: Doubleday, 1963), co-authored with Lyle G. Boyd; and UFO Enigma: Definitive Explanation of the UFO Phenomenon (New York, New York: Doubleday, 1977); this latter book co-authored by Ernest H. Taves. In all three of these books, the Harvard astronomer argues that all UFO sightings can ultimately be explained as nothing more than the misidentification of prosaic aerial phenomena such as airplanes, clouds, planets or stars. Usually, according to Menzel, these conventional objects are seen through the haze of “unusual atmospheric phenomena” that they normally would not be acquainted with. Menzel was the frequent guest on many of the prominent radio and television interview programs of the 1950s and 1960s, and is counted among the first to pooh-pooh the entire flying saucer phenomenon as a “myth of the space age.”

Being the director of an observatory and the Harvard University Department of Astronomy, Menzel’s eyes were frequently focused on the heavens. Therefore, it should not come as any surprise that Menzel has seen his share of the so-called “UFOs.” One of his more spectacular sightings took place while he was onboard an Air Force weather patrol plane on one of that agency’s regular “Ptarmigan” flights over the North Pole. The date was 3 March 1955. The entire crew became highly agitated, witnessing a flying saucer out the starboard side of the airplane. Menzel took a look at the object and immediately deduced that it was not a flying saucer, but a mirage of the ringed planet Saturn, as it was being projected through a dense, atmospheric haze. Such temperature inversions could distort the image of stars or planets, making them appear to be larger than they really are, i.e. unusual in their shape, and in their apparent motion. Naturally, Saturn with its rings might easily assume the shape of a typical flying saucer.

For Menzel, it was apparent that his access to insider information from the CIA, PSB-OCB and other agencies of the United States government, gave him a totally different perspective on the UFO phenomenon than what his public persona projected. Interestingly, in his off-duty hours, Menzel was an accomplished writer of science fiction stories. He wrote and even illustrated several stories for Galaxy in the mid-1960s, a popular science fiction magazine published by World Editions in New York City, New York, from 1950 to 1980. His articles and water colors featured alien creatures and spaceships, as well as humans and extraterrestrials passing through inter-dimensional star gates. Perhaps this was some small way in which he could get out of the straight jacket he was forced into by the powers-that-be, thereby dropping a hint to the public-at-large that of the truth that is waiting to be discovered in outer space.

Cover art by Dr. Donald H. Menzel on September 1969 issue of Galaxy science fiction magazine. His fictional art and writing expressed more truth than all three of his UFO books and many articles on UFOs in purely scientific journals.


Lorenzen had no idea of the emerging power of the vast flying saucer conspiracy she was up against, just what agencies were behind Dr. Donald H. Menzel’s push against the extraterrestrial hypothesis for the origin of the UFOs suddenly populating our skies in such large numbers since the summer of 1947. The APRO director took note of an editorial appearing on the possibility of intelligent alien life in the pages of the Green Bay, Wisconsin, Press-Gazette newspaper, date unspecified. The editorial writer concluded that because we, as a human species, are still in the process of progressing, then beings of other worlds could have progressed to the point where travel in space is already realized, instead of a mere dream, as it is with us Earthlings.

Apparently, the drumbeat of Menzel and the other skeptics was already catching on in the extant news media of the early 1950s. The Ottawa, Illinois, Daily Republican newspaper of 6 August 1952 carried a notice that it was henceforth going to “ban all news of flying saucers;” and it even encouraged the editorial boards of other newspapers to take similar actions. Lorenzen wrote a letter of complaint to the editorial staff of the Daily Republican, arguing that the arrival of extraterrestrial visitors on our planet would be the biggest news event in the history of the world, since God parted the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to cross over to freedom from the wicked Egyptian pharaoh. It would be such a shame for any newspaper to lose a scoop on the first case of public extraterrestrial contact and disclosure.

Mt. Palomar Revelations

Perhaps the biggest UFO revelation wasn’t that far off. In the September 1952 issue of Sir, a man’s magazine, Dr. R. S. Richardson, an astronomer from the Mt. Palomar Observatory in Southern California, mused about the possible physical characteristics of beings from other planets in our solar system, particularly Mars. Lorenzen commented that the article, “Meet the Men from Mars,” was “well written, and well thought out beforehand.” Lorenzen went on to declare that “We (of APRO) believe as Richardson believes that beings from other planets will be very much like we humans!”

- Look magazine, biweekly from Des Moines, Iowa, published 1937-1971.
- Coral Lorenzen, “The Saucer Bandwagon,” APRO Bulletin, July 1952, vol. 1, no. 1, Box 358, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, pages 1 and 9.
- L. G. Boyd and Donald H. Menzel, World of Flying Saucers: A Scientific Examination of a Major Myth of the Space Age (New York, New York: Doubleday, 1963), 5.
- Coral Lorenzen, “The Saucer Bandwagon,” APRO Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 2, Box 358, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, page 4.
- This refers to Oscar Linke’s flying saucer sighting in East Germany. Attached with this article is a report on the Linke observation from the files of the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
- Office of the Historian, Foreign Relations 1964-1968, Volume XXVI, Indonesia; Malaysia-Singapore; Philippines: Note on United States Covert Action Programs (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of State, information released online from 20 January 2001 to 20 January 2009. See https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/johnsonlb/xxvi/4440.htm (Retrieved 9 June 2020).
- John Prados, Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA (Chicago, Illinois: Ivan R. Dee, 2006), 150.
- Coinciding with his consultancy on UFO matters, Menzel also served as a United States Department of State consultant on Latin American affairs from 1964 until his death. One of the PSB-OCB missions was to coordinate the transmission of anti-communist radio programs through the Voice of America to Latin American countries. Menzel, with his expertise in radio engineering and the propagation of radio waves, must have been an outstanding asset in this regard. He would have also been in an opportune position to intercept UFO information coming out of Latin America as well as to filter information on the UFO enigma emanating from the United States, thus keeping groups like APRO, with strong Central and South American connections, in check. See Michael Nelson, War of the Black Heavens: Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1997), for more detailed information on the Voice of America.
- Coral Lorenzen, “The Saucer Bandwagon,” APRO Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 2, Box 358, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, page 4.
- R. S. Richardson, “Meet the Men from Mars,” Sir, September 1952, Volitant Publishing Company, New York, New York.
- Coral Lorenzen, Op cit


Editor’s Note: If you would like to ask the Cosmic Ray any questions about Venus or life on other planets, do not hesitate to send him an e-mail at rkeller1@mix.wvu.edu. The doctor will be appearing with Omnec Onec, the Ambassador from Venus, along with premier ufologist Laura Eisenhower, at the Promise Revealed Meet the Venusians Mt. Shasta Summer Conference, to be held Wednesday, 26 August 2020 through Sunday 30 August 2020 at the Siskiyou Masonic Lodge, Mount Shasta, California. For event information or to purchase tickets, please call Rob Potter at (530) 925-3502. Until then, in the profound words of Venusian Moon Base Clarion Commander Aura Rhanes, “Work, study, and meditate on all good things!”

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